Sunday, 18 August 2019 12:32

The Iron Islands

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Introduction (click here to skip introduction)


If you have not already done so, I suggest and strongly recommend going through the presentation on un-potting and dividing an orchid that can be found here.  Divisions do not fall from the sky, they come from breaking an over-sized orchid into pieces.  If you are just re-potting an orchid, follow along below.


Gather the items you will need.

  • Clean pot
  • New, washed bark mix
  • The orchid to be re-potted
  • a friend that also has orchids that need re-potting


The Orchid Pot:  I could go off on a complete tangent here discussing the orchid pot, choosing the right pot for your orchid, clay versus plastic, tansparent versus all black, tall, short, fat, etc., etc.  However, I am afraid that if I did, by the time you got half way through with that discussion you decide it be so much easier to re-pot orchids but setting them at the curb with a side that reads "free" and someone drive by and make re-potting on your part a lot easier.  Simply because they no longer be your orchids.  So I will skip that tangent.  Instead, I will suggest the following;  bring the orchid you plan on re-potting to an orchid meeting and ask experienced growers for their advice.  If you cannot bring the orchid, take a picture and bring that instead.


This is also where I ease the tension starting to build on the faces of experienced orchid growers about the topic of "sterilization".  I'm just not going to get into it.  The hobby grower is not going to care.  They should, but it is not important to them.  Experienced growers know that any orchid they purchase before being introduced into the main collection is isolated  like a quarantine until it is properly tested.  I agree, this is a good practice to get into, but for the hobby grower, it is beyond their need.  In the future, I might do a focussed discussion on sterilization.  In the meantime, if you are curious, just ask any experienced grower about this practice to prevent the spread of virused orchids.


Bark Mix or preferred potting medium:  You guessed it, another minefield in the culkture of orchids, and another seperate discussion to be written and linked here.  Once again the solution is ask experienced growers their advice on this topic, when you have your orchid or picture of your orchid in hand and seeking advice.


The orchid to be re-potted:  Ah-ha, something I can include here without a seperate discussion, and it should also be obvious.


A friend:   This might be a surprise, but other than the orchid to be re-potted, this is perhaps the most important tool you will need.  This is not work if you share re-potting with a friend.  It is also a great way to perhaps trade any divisions as a sign of gratitude.  A friend can be that extra pair of hands when dealing with a cantankerous orchid


If you are new to re-potting orchids, consider this rule of thumb - each orchid from un-pot to completing the new pot, takes about 45 minutes for the beginner.  So don't start thinking you will get 10 orchids done at a single potting session, unless you are really dedicated.  I speak from experience on this - after 4 hours the frustration can start to set in.  At first, focus on maybe 2 orchids per potting session, you will be much happier for it because re-potting can cause unexpected surprises.  Not anything major, just be aware that some orchids are very easy and then there are those that were born to be a challenge.


One last comment regarding re-potting an orchid - nobody always gets it right the first time, but do not be surprised if third time is the charm.  Once again I can speak on this from experience.  Between level of the orchid to the level of the medium in the pot, and the position of the orchid relative to center or a side with new growth facing a specific direction, at times it seems you need 3 sets of hands.  Now you see why a friend is so important.  Many times I think "this time I got it right", only to dump everything and start again.  It is not like I am a perfectionist, but seating an orchid just right means a great deal to the orchid.  New growth is free to expand, the orchid is almost floating on the potting medium versus sinking into it.  So much to consider, no wonder people bring them to a society and pay (I mean donate) to have someone else do it.


I do my re-potting in the kitchen sink with a drain guard to prevent those big chunks of debris from going down the drain and doing damage to my sink disposal blades.  You can also use a large dishpan or even a cardboard box to capture the debris and make cleaning much easier.


At this point, we are starting with an orchid that is ready for re-potting.  It has been cleaned, trimmed of any dead material and ready to move into its new home for the next two years.





The Process (18 August 2019)




Pictured above is the "front"  (lkeft image) and "back" (right image of this particular division.  The roots all look very good.  The rhizome grew straight down from the bulbs with a slight curve.  This division has two new growths.


The first thing I do is fill enough pellets to a level just above the drainage holes on the side of my semi-hydroponic pots.  Th goal is to try and have as few roots below the water line.  They can make the choice to grow into the water and many will.


An unintended advantage of using a pot with a top width of 4-inches across is that I can palm it, or place the orchid between some of my fingers as support and adjust as needed while I fill the pot with pellets.  Again, I determine the direction of which the orchid has grown by following the rhizome, and placing the break of the rhizome as close to the edge of the pot as possible so that new growth fill in empty space.  Keep in mind that many orchids like the Oncidium, "grow up stairs".  The base of each new growth will be slightly higher then the base of the old growth from which it sprouted from.


As for determining the depth of this Oncidium in the new pot, I arranged it so that the new growth is even or just below the surface of the potting medium.  In the case of long roots, I spin the orchid (or the pot) so they kind of form a circle above the water line.


Supporting the orchid between fingers of my left hand, maybe just a little lower then I wish for it to finally end up, I slowly add the clay pellets a little at a time, while rotaing the pot.  My goal is to tap pellets enough so they fill empty spaces under the orchid supporting it.  I will at this point with at leat two inches of pellets to add, spin the entire pot and orchid as one unit getting a look at roots and checking for any serious voids that could be filled by pellets.  This is when I add a few Osmocote pellets and top it off with clay pellets.  Before the final pellets are added, I eyeball the orchid as it rests just above the pellets in the pot.  I hope for the magic line be about a half inch below the rim of my pot.  I also get at eye-level and look across the orchid trying my best to make sure it is straight up and down and not leaning (wishful thinking sometimes).  Add the remaining pellets and a few more real good taps on the side or a gentle banging of the bottom of the pot on my table or counter to settle and pack pellets.


The division will get a nice "dunk and drown" for about 15 minutes in water with a very small amount of SuperThrive.  FOr the next month it get ambien light with as little direct light as possible.  I want the orchid to recover from the ordeal of being  disturbed.  Hopefully the trauma and set-back be at a minimum.  It and its 5 friends will be set in a tote with about an inch of water on the bottom to add to the local humidity.  Normal watering take place every three days except for heat-waves where drenching of tepid water cool the pellets and more importantly, the roots.







(September 2019)



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B the Iron Islands (Pyke)

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